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What can I use instead of cannoli shells?

Cannoli are classic Italian pastries that are made with a crunchy outer shell that encases a sweet, creamy filling. The traditional cannoli shell is made by deep-frying strips of pasta dough until they become crisp. While frying shells is part of what gives cannoli their signature texture, you may want an alternative for times when you want to avoid deep-frying. Luckily, there are several options to create a cannoli shell substitute so you can still enjoy the delicious filling.

Store-Bought Shells

The easiest substitute for homemade cannoli shells is to use store-bought options. Many grocery stores carry pre-made cannoli shells in the bakery section or Italian specialty aisle. These are typically crisp pastry shells that have been pre-fried and are ready to fill. Look for shells that are sturdy yet crunchy. Avoid any that seem soggy or limp.

You can also find pre-made cannoli shells in the freezer section. These frozen shells allow you to keep a stash handy for whenever a cannoli craving strikes. Let frozen shells thaw completely before filling and serving. One downside to store-bought shells is that they are often smaller in size than homemade shells.

Pastry Shells

If you can’t find cannoli-specific shells, another option is to use cup-shaped pastry shells. Mini tart shells or mini phyllo shells work well for this. Look for shells that are around 3-4 inches in diameter so they are large enough to contain a generous amount of filling.

Since these shells were not specifically made for cannolis, they will have a more neutral flavor and light, flaky texture as opposed to the crispness of a fried cannoli shell. However, they provide a nice base for the sweet filling and allow you to put together cannoli without any frying required.

Wafer Cookies

For a different take, you can also make cannoli shells out of wafer cookies. Look for flat, round wafer cookies that are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. To prepare them, gently wrap the cookies around a cannoli mold or glass to create the curved shell shape.

Once shaped, pipe your filling into the wafer cookie shells. This gives you the crunch factor of a classic cannoli. You’ll just need to be delicate when shaping and filling the wafers since they are more brittle than other shell options. An advantage is wafer cookies are simple to find and require no baking or frying.

Ice Cream Cones

For an inventive shell, you can fill standard flat-bottomed ice cream cones with cannoli filling for individual-sized treats. Look for cones that are around 4 inches high so they can hold a generous amount of filling. Fill them about two-thirds of the way full to prevent spilling.

Ice cream cones make fun novelty cannoli shells. Their crisp texture contrasts nicely with the rich filling. You can even dip the tips of the cones in chocolate sprinkles or chopped nuts once filled to mimic the look of traditional cannoli ends.

Puff Pastry

Making your own cannoli shells at home is entirely possible without deep-frying. Baked puff pastry shells are a great substitute. Purchase sheets of frozen puff pastry dough. Thaw them before use.

Cut the puff pastry into rectangles approximately 4 x 6 inches. Brush the rectangles lightly with milk or beaten egg. Roll the dough around cannoli molds or a narrow rolling pin to shape into cylinders. Seal the seam with more egg wash.

Bake the cylinders at 400°F for about 20 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Cool before carefully sliding off the molds. The end result will be crisp, flaky shells ready for filling.


For an even simpler homemade shell, you can bake cannoli shapes using egg roll wrappers or pizza dough. Brush the wrappers or rolled-out dough with egg wash. Wrap them tightly around molds and bake until browned and hardened.

You can also make cannoli shells by taking sturdy cookies like biscotti and shaping them around molds while still warm from baking. This creates an edible holder for the filling.

Wonton Wrappers

Another way to achieve a crispy texture without frying is by making baked cannoli shells with wonton wrappers. Brush wonton wrappers lightly with oil or butter. Wrap them around a cannoli mold, sealing the edges with a small amount of water.

Bake at 400°F for 4 to 6 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely before removing from the molds. The thin wonton wrappers become delicate shells that provide the perfect bitable crunch for cannolis.


For an extra sturdy shell, breadsticks are an easily available option. Look for long, thin breadsticks for the most cannoli-like shape. To form the breadstick into a shell, make a slit down the length of the breadstick so it can be opened up.

Wrap it around a mold or glass so the slit runs vertically like a seam. You can secure the slit closed with a toothpick if needed. The exterior of breadsticks will be hardened while the interior remains soft for contrast against the creamy filling.


Cannoli are a classic dessert that’s worth enjoying even without the ability to fry authentic shells. With a combination of store-bought alternatives and quick homemade shells, you can find a substitute for traditional cannoli tubes that allows you to highlight the sweet ricotta filling. The options covered here provide the necessary crispy contrast whether you’re in a time crunch or avoiding oil. Get creative with shells like wafer cookies and ice cream cones for fun presentations. With the right shell substitute and delicious filling, you can satisfy your cannoli craving without compromise.